Lindsay McMahon
"The English Adventurer"

how to use stick with, stick by in English

One of the common native verbs that English speakers use is “stick” and it’s variations including “stick to,” “sticky by”, “stick with” and more.

Today we’re going to show you what these phrases mean and exactly how to use them.

Here is a question from a listener:

Hello! Lindsay – How is everything going with you? Hope you have a wonderful day! I’m All Ears English’s regular listener!  Thank you for being so energetic and the perfectly useful episodes!! All Ears English is the best podcast ever. I’ve got a question! What’s the difference between “stick to ” and “stick with” and “stick by”?? In Korean dictionary, they mean pretty much the same. If there is any difference between them, could you please explain and give some examples that make the different usages clear?? Thank you in advance. Have a good one!


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We’ll start today by defining the verb “to stick.”

To stick:

  • As a noun: a piece of wood, a short branch from a tree
  • As a verb: to stick- when something adheres to a surface
    • When I was a kid I got gum stuck in my hair.
      • Verb form: Stick, stuck, stuck

So now that we know what “stick” means we can expand out because all of these verbs plus prepositions use that base meaning.

When you want to use these variations on the verb “to stick” think about it with that context already in your mind.

They are all going to have the general meaning of remaining or adhering to something.

  • To stick to:
    • Literal meaning: to remain, to adhere- the gum is stuck to my shoe
    • Figurative meaning: to continue doing or using (something) especially when it is difficult to do so.
      • We have a cultural narrative in the United States about pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. We like to say, “You have to stick to it and never give up.:
      • “Make a decision and stick to it.”
      • “She has “stick-to-it-ive-ness” – this is a current casual phrase that means that the person has the quality that she tends to not give up on things. 
  • To stick with: to continue using or doing something. This is very similar to stick to.
    • A: Hey do you want a glass of wine? I’m gonna open an aged bottle from the cellar.
    • B: No thanks I’m going to stick with beer.
  • To be stuck with someone or something: To be without options or without choices. 
    • Well I wanted to go out to see a movie but I am stuck in the house with the dog tonight.
    • I guess we’re stuck with each other.
    • Also- famous song- Huey Louis and the News- “Yes, it’s true, I’m happy to be stuck with you. Yes, it’s true, I’m so happy to be stuck with you.” Learn more about this song here.
  • To stick by: To continue to support or be loyal to (someone or something)
    • I promised to support you and I’ll stick by my promise.
    • The next few years will be tough but I still stick by you and we’ll see it through
  • To be stuck on someone: To be very attracted to someone or to be in love with them
    • Joe’s girlfriend has been stuck on him since day 1.


What questions do you have about this episode?

Let us know in the comments below.

Thanks for listening today!

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